Mary confronts Rose in her own home, while Duncan and Bridgette go hunting for Mary!?! Once & Future #15 also gives us our very own radical retake on Lancelot du Lac and a frightening family secret revealed that will have you rethinking Mary, our would-be antagonist. Tense, taut, terrific.
(+++ WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Once & Future #15 +++)
If you’ve been reading Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s Once & Future then you will not need to be told of the radical redesign the Round Table Knights have undergone in their hands. And with the appearance of a certain chivalric knight in this latest issue, this trend is once more embraced with a dramatic reveal.
Lancelot du Lac – the knight in question – is a hard bodied walking fish-tank with two violent red streaks cutting vertically down his face and eyes. It’s like nothing you’d would have ever imagined and another character design that’s both radical and effective, especially as expectations have been building as regards this characters for quite some time now. And it’s not even the biggest dramatic moment of this particular issue.
No, that would be the revelation of Duncan’s mother’s tragic backstory. A revelation that will have you pausing to reconsider her role in this saga. Nothing is ever black and white in this story that deals with, well black and white archetypes from legends. Mary is a woman who was cast as the villain in the first story-arc of this fantasy series, but now seems to be one who we must seriously rethink. Even if she’s still coming cross as a world-class bitch at the start of this issue.
In Once & Future #15 Mary confronts Rose over the triviality of her dating Duncan, Mary’s son. But, looking down then barrel of a gun is no trivial matter.
Like Duncan, Mary has had a life of living the roles assigned to her. In her desire to bring Arthur back to Britain, she played the role fo Elaine, but now she is Nimue. The seductress of Merlin in many versions of the legend. And she certainly gives us a very different perspective on her own mother. A perspective that readers will sympathise more with after the tragic tale she tells Rose. Here is a woman who has been abused. Both mentally and physically. How could any reader not feel for her after they’ve read this issue, I do not know.
The cutaways that this issue is built upon – swinging from her and Rose to Bridgette and Duncan back and forth – help ramp up the tension superbly. Especially as the tale Mary is regaling is echoed in Bridgette’s each for her. It’s a creeping horror that propels this issue towards another dramatic cliffhanger, and an issue that asks the reader to reconsider Mary’s role – and maybe Bridgette’s too – in this story. This may well be a book built around an original take on King Arthur, but it’s becoming more and more a book about family. And the evils they can do to their own kin. To me, at least, Mary is shaping into a tragic character in the making. She just doesn’t realise it yet.
Giving more weight to this issue’s building tension is Dan Mora with a mastery of two-point perspective going hand-in-hand with a keen cinematic eye for the perfect camera angle that only heightens the drama in each scene. The mid-issue full page revelation of Lancelot and then later Mary’s own horrific admission – also delivered as a full page shocker – are highly impactful. Add in the dark but rich colours of Tamra Bonvillain and you have another tense, taut issue that’s delivered through gritted teeth.
Once & Future #15 is out now from BOOM! Studios